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May 25, 2020

  • The advantage

The advantage - May 2020

There’s never been a greater need for mental health support — insights from MindBeacon

Last month GSC announced our sponsorship of Stronger Minds, a free digital program from MindBeacon that provides crucial mental health support for all Canadians. The program is available now at and offers guidance in the form of short expert Q&A videos, quick reads, and building activities – all focused on protecting emotional well-being during the COVID-19  crisis.

As the pandemic continues, we are learning more about the impact it is having on plan member mental health and ways in which leaders within an organization can provide support. Understanding that the mental health of all levels within your organization is top-of-mind – we asked our friends at MindBeacon how leaders can assess which plan members are struggling with their mental health. Here’s what they told us…

‘It’s OK to not be OK’

The COVID-19 crisis has presented the opportunity to open up a conversation – we all accept that times have changed, and we’re dealing with a new reality. Everyone is struggling in different ways and putting their mental health at risk – having permission to admit that is good and a great conversation starter.

Creating a safe environment gives permission to those who are struggling to speak up. This is the time for open, honest, and empathetic communication. Leaders can open the lines of communication by making sure they are asking “how are you doing?” The issue is what to do when the answer is “I’m OK,” and they are really not sure whether that is an accurate assessment.

What if “I’m OK” might not be an accurate assessment? Asking a few additional questions could help determine whether someone might be struggling:

  • “On a scale of one to ten, how are you doing?”
  • “What are your challenges with this new normal?”
  • “Is there anything I, or the organization, could help with to make your work situation easier during this transition?”

Leaders should look for changes in behaviour that are out of the ordinary and understand that these changes may not be the result of an inability to cope with work, but rather a struggle with their reality outside of work.

Remember the individual who is now trying to be productive while perhaps caring for multiple young children at home, which likely includes an aspect of home-schooling – or is dealing with the financial implications of a spouse who has suddenly lost their job and income – or is worried about an elderly parent living in a long-term care facility.

Replace the ‘water cooler’ conversations

Bear in mind that not all conversations about mental well-being should be happening one-on-one. Peer support is also important. Leaders should encourage individuals to book virtual coffee chats with coworkers and make sure that virtual team or department meetings are not all business. And when talking as a group, the door should be open for some positive messages. Sometimes finding out how others are coping and what’s working for them can be really helpful to someone else.

Finally, recognize that many people still will not be comfortable divulging emotional struggles to their workplace leaders. That’s why it’s so important for leadership to regularly, broadly, and proactively share information about the mental health supports that are available and assure confidentiality of these supports.

GSC understands mental health resources are more important than ever

While Stronger Minds puts day-to-day guidance to help with the stresses of COVID 19 within easy reach at no cost, some plan members may require additional mental health support, especially once COVID-19 stressors start to dissipate. BEACON provides digital therapy that uses the evidence-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) form of psychotherapy to treat many different mental health conditions. And with the per-plan member per-month payment option we introduced in the March 2020 issue of The advantage, you can demonstrate to your plan members that their mental health is an important priority to you. As well, BEACON has found that by removing the barrier of out-of-pocket payment with later reimbursement (when plan members have to use the mental health coverage that is already part of their benefits plan), there is a 15- to 30-fold increase in therapy usage. This increased spend is the right kind of spend with far-reaching and long-term impacts and is an alternative we’re strongly encouraging you to consider. Reach out to your account team to discuss this option further.

GSC partners with PocketPills

Last month we issued a press release announcing our collaboration with PocketPills (, Canada’s leading digital pharmacy. 

As a technology-driven, exclusively digital pharmacy, PocketPills is able to maintain lower operating costs and pass the savings on to plan sponsors and plan members.

PocketPills can provide your plan members with a convenient, fully digital pharmacy experience including:

  • Instant connections with a pharmacist online or through the mobile app
  • Easy-to-use PocketPacks containing medications sorted by dose and time
  • Automatic prescription refills
  • Ongoing disease management
  • Free delivery
  • Low dispensing fees

An innovative option that will help you with the sustainability of your drug plan, GSC now offers a choice of three packages – each with its own unique plan design features and level of cost savings. The first package – available to all GSC plan members – is the use of PocketPills to gain all of the advantages listed above. This option is available today, and we’ve heard great feedback to date! The second package includes an option to lower the co-payment of certain drugs when PocketPills is used – an incentivized approach. And the third is an option to require certain drugs to be accessed exclusively through PocketPills – a mandatory approach.

Note that PocketPills is currently unavailable in Quebec, but is expected to launch there later this year.

Contact your account team with any questions or for more information about PocketPills.

Plan Members are turning to Maple

As first introduced to you late last year, Maple ( provides quick and convenient access to medical care with a doctor – and within minutes – from a plan member’s mobile device or computer via an app or website. Read more in the March 2020 issue of The advantage.

Since GSC first started offering Maple as an optional addition to our group benefit plans, and offering discounted rates to all GSC plan members, we have seen utilization by plan members steadily grow. And that growth has been driven up by the COVID-19 pandemic.

From February 1 to April 30, we’ve seen:

A trend upward in new registrations of GSC plan members
Month-over-month increases in the number of plan members using the service
Consistent numbers of consultations, prescriptions ordered, and lab requisitions issued
An average satisfaction rating of 4.9 out of five stars for the three-month period

Here’s what plan members are saying:

  • “Everything was great – nothing needs to improve!”
  • “Excellent experience! Thank you!”
  • “The service is incredible – thank you.”
  • “Fast and professional thanks.”
  • “Doctor was great!”

Want to get a quote for Maple? Reach out to your account team.

GSC’S new digital/virtual product

Back in late April, we were pleased to announce the availability of our new digital/ virtual-based plan design in response to helping Canadians live their healthiest lives in this new COVID-19 reality, in particular, those without benefit plans. In the event that existing benefit plans can no longer be maintained, this new product may be a suitable replacement going forward.

As a low-cost plan design for groups with 50 lives or more, it is a non-medically underwritten product, taking age, gender, and other demographic considerations of the group into account when determining pricing. The price ranges from $35 to $45 per month and could be higher than this range dependent on the demographics of the group.

The plan design is fixed – meaning no changes can be made to it. This plan design intentionally includes services that can be delivered remotely, including access to telemedicine solutions, a proven digital mental health therapy, physiotherapy services, as well as prescription drug coverage (in collaboration with PocketPills, a leading digital pharmacy).

More specifically…

  • The drug maximum is $400 per year and is a family maximum without any co-pays or deductibles. This provides a level of coverage that may be helpful for plan members taking lower-cost maintenance drugs which treat many chronic conditions. The use of PocketPills will be strongly encouraged and promoted as this option includes free delivery, low dispensing fees, and access to value-added services at no cost such as the option to connect with the PocketPills pharmacy via chat, text, call, or email.
  • MindBeacon’s therapist-guided digitally-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy BEACON program is included and can be accessed by the plan member and eligible dependents (age 16 and over) with no out-of-pocket cost.
  • Telemedicine via Maple is included – offering direct access to a doctor within minutes at no out-of-pocket cost to the plan member. The product includes four visits with a doctor per family per year.
  • The physiotherapy maximum is $200 per person per year. As virtually delivered physiotherapy is typically offered at a lower cost compared to in-person treatments, it allows for further use of the benefit. No co-payments or deductibles apply to the physiotherapy coverage.

Contact your GSC account team to discuss this new product further.

Coming soon… a better interactive voice response experience

Continuing our commitment to innovation that improves the plan member and health provider experience, GSC is launching a new interactive voice response (IVR) system in June. By bringing this leading technology to the Contact Centre phone  line, GSC will make life easier and improve satisfaction for all of our customers (i.e., plan members, providers, plan sponsors) by building upon the increasing use of digital, self-serve options.

Highlights of the system:

  • The new IVR phone system is a fast, easy, and secure way to get the information plan members need. The self-serve menu provides 24-7 access to claims information, benefit eligibility, and the answers to some common questions directly through the IVR.
  • Plan members can also set up a Voice ID. Because everyone’s voice is unique – like a fingerprint – Voice ID is able to securely verify a plan member’s identity by the sound of their voice, meaning they can skip personal verification questions. In less than a minute, the plan member voiceprint is recorded and ready to go the next time the plan member calls.
  • Pharmacy providers can use the IVR to get things like claim status and drug coverage details (by drug identification number).
  • All other providers can also use the IVR to get claims information and some eligibility information.

If you would like to promote the new IVR to your plan members, we have digital communication materials (poster, fact sheet, screen saver) available for you. Just contact your GSC account team to request them.

Quebec government provides vision coverage for youth – update

We first told you about the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) “See Better to Succeed” program, for youth 17 and under, back in December. For a refresher, check out the article in the December 2019 issue of The advantage. At that time, we also shared that updates would be made to our adjudication system and claiming platforms in early 2020. While there was a slight delay with implementing the system and platform changes, we can confirm that all updates will be deployed within the next few weeks. Keep in mind that prior to this update being in place, if a claim was submitted along with a copy of the RAMQ reimbursement, we reduced the payment amount by $250 (the amount paid by the program), and reimbursed only the remaining balance – according to the plan limitations. This ensured that the group plan paid after the provincial plan was accessed.

The new system and platform updates require that the amount paid by the RAMQ program will always be applied to the allowable reimbursement amount for Quebec residents age 17 and under – as a mandatory requirement. A new field must be completed on Online Services when a plan member living in Quebec submits a real time claim for a dependent under the age of 18 for prescription glasses and/or contact lenses. The new field requires the plan member to enter the amount paid by the provincial program – whether it be $250 or $0. It’s not a mandatory field when the age and province criteria aren’t met. The amount entered into this field is deducted from the eligible amount – determined by the benefit plan limitations. The same functionality will apply on our mobile app in the coming weeks.

Alberta delays biosimilar switching

In the March 2020 issue of The advantage, we told you about Alberta’s Biosimilar Initiative which was to be effective July 1, 2020. With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting many provincial priorities, the Biosimilar Initiative has been delayed with a new effective date of January 15, 2021. At this time, no other changes to this program have been announced.

Got questions? The support centre has answers

Our Support Centre is a real-time library of accurate and up-to-date answers to common questions about popular topics without having to call us. Housing content in both English and French, it has been extremely helpful during the rapid changes of the COVID-19 pandemic. A topic button on the homepage links to dedicated information on the pandemic making it very easy to keep up to date on the most current information. Other popular content includes “how-to” videos which walk plan members through signing up for Online Services, online claim submission, and checking benefit eligibility. Last month, we had just under 30,000 visits to the site.

We run monthly reporting on the Support Centre to see what topics people are searching for that they cannot find. The site also has a feedback feature which allows your plan members to send us suggestions for enhancements or to tell us about their experience on the site. We use the reporting results and feedback to update and build new content/answers. Click here to check it out for yourself!